NAPA (CBS SF) — Napa County residents are paying tribute Thursday to former Napa County Undersheriff Michael Loughran, 61, of Napa, who died Monday while on vacation in Maui.

The Maui County Police Department said Loughran was snorkeling in front of the Ka’anapali Beach Club at 104 Ka’anapali Shores Place in Maui when he was caught in a strong current.

He was trying to swim back to shore but was having difficulty breathing and held onto a buoy, police said.

A kayaker brought him to shore but he collapsed a short time later and died at the scene despite efforts to revive him, police said. Police responded around noon Monday.

The cause of his death is pending autopsy results.

Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Douglas Pike recalls Loughran was in a hospital intensive care unit shortly after he retired in 2009.

“It’s scary, he always seemed healthy,” Pike said.

Pike said Loughran was “a giving, caring person,” and “larger than life.”

He said Loughran was a newly-promoted sergeant when he joined the Napa County Sheriff’s Office in 1987, and Loughran became his mentor.

“He was always willing to help. He was a good family man,” Pike said.

Loughran was a 32-year-employee of the sheriff’s office and began his law enforcement career in Marin County five years earlier.

Loughran was an active volunteer with The Pathway Home in Yountville, a residential treatment program that teaches skills to traumatized veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are returning to civilian life.

“He was a very humble guy. He was physically a big guy, the epitome of a big bear,” said Ken Gusman, executive director of The Pathway Home.

“He was always laughing and always had something funny to say. It’s a major loss” Gusman said.

Loughran picked up returning veterans at the airport and brought them back to it when they finished their four-month treatment program at The Pathway Home.

Seven of those veterans are graduating Friday the program this week, and they shared their memories of Loughran on Tuesday when they heard of his passing, Gusman said.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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